Exploring Southern India_ Temples and Tea Plantations

Kochi (Cochin)

 Day 01: Our journey begins in the historic port city of Kochi (Cochin) on India’s Malabar Coast, renowned for its diverse culture and delicious street food. Kochi has been an important trade hub since 1341, attracting merchants from around the globe. Today is free for you to explore at leisure, with a welcome meeting scheduled at the hotel at 5 pm, followed by an optional dinner. Late arrivals will be updated the next morning. If needed, arrange a transfer from Cochin International Airport, about 1.5 hours away. We’ll be staying two nights at an art-deco hotel on Willingdon Island, close to Fort Kochi, which boasts excellent on-site dining options.

Day 02: This morning, we’re heading to Fort Kochi. Our journey begins with an autorickshaw ride to Embarkation Jetty, where a ferry will take us across to Mattancherry Palace. Originally built by the Portuguese in the 16th century, the Dutch later renovated it, earning it the name Dutch Palace. Inside, you’ll find remarkable murals depicting scenes from the Ramayana. We’ll then explore Fort Kochi, visiting the Jewish town synagogue and the iconic Chinese fishing nets along the harbor. While exploring alleyways and markets, we’ll savor Indian street food like Masala Vada and Bonda.

For lunch, we’ll indulge in Keralan cuisine at the Tea Bungalow, enjoying a Sadya, a traditional vegetarian banquet served on a banana leaf. The resident chef will enlighten us about the meal’s origins. Afterward, a harbor cruise will offer a breath of sea air and views of Kochi’s waterways. To cap off the day, we’ll experience a Kathakali performance—a mesmerizing blend of dance, mime, ballet, and opera, telling stories from Indian epics like Ramayana and Mahabharata. The dance, with its unique eye movements and facial expressions, is a testament to years of dedicated mastery.

Day 03: Today, we’ll start early to experience Kochi’s culinary scene. We’ll take a public ferry to Ernakulam town, exploring the vibrant vegetable market and discovering South Indian cooking ingredients. After a visit to the Shiva temple, we’ll head to a local restaurant for a dosa-making demo—a popular South Indian pancake breakfast. Later, we’ll bid farewell to Kochi, driving to Munnar with a lunch stop at a local bakery for a traditional thali. Munnar, known for its spice and tea plantations, boasts a rich history of spice trade that attracted ancient civilizations. Spend the afternoon exploring this serene town surrounded by lush forests and tea estates.

Day 04: Explore a tea plantation today, discovering the cultivation process and leaf picking. Visit a tea museum to understand the transformation of leaves into the brew we enjoy. The afternoon offers relaxation at the hotel with spa amenities or optional activities like yoga, a scenic walk through grasslands, or cycling with limited bike rentals available.

Day 05: Today, we’ll journey down from the highlands to explore the teak forests around Thekkady and Periyar National Park. A spice garden tour with an expert will enlighten us on the significance of spices in Indian culture. We’ll witness the thriving cultivation of cardamom, pepper, vanilla, nutmeg, ginger, and curry plants in the region. Following the tour, a cooking demonstration will showcase the careful blending of these spices, culminating in a delightful lunch. Our accommodation in Kumily features jungle cottages and rooms, with the added amenities of a spa offering Ayurvedic therapies and a refreshing swimming pool.

Day 06: After leaving Thekkady, we’ll head to a coastal village for a two-night homestay with local families. Your tour leader will introduce you to local customs and traditions, providing insight into the Keralan way of life. Enjoy delicious home-cooked meals, including spicy coconut curry. In the afternoon, take a stroll through surrounding villages to learn about toddy tapping—a process of collecting sap from palm trees, fermented into toddy with 6-7% alcohol content. Join your host family in the evening for a homecooked meal with recipes passed down through generations. Our traditional Keralan-style rooms are twin-shared, with attached or allocated basic bathrooms. Limited hot water may be available. Bedding and towels are provided.

Day 07: Today, we embark on a journey through Kerala’s renowned backwaters aboard a traditional houseboat. Cruising at a leisurely pace, we’ll witness village life along the water, glimpse locals tending to animals, and pass vibrant gardens. Enjoy a cooking demo on board, with the option to prepare a fish curry or a vegetarian dish on a banana leaf. As the day ends, we’ll dock alongside other houseboats, allowing us to connect to electricity and enjoy a night in simple twin rooms. It’s a unique and refreshing way to experience the beauty of the famous backwaters.

Day 08: After waking up to scenic Kerala views, we’ll have a leisurely breakfast on board before disembarking mid-morning to return to Kochi. Lunch awaits at a seafood restaurant in Fort Kochi’s northern tip, offering a perfect view of passing boats and freshly caught seafood. The rest of the day is yours to enjoy. Consider booking a table at Chef Pillai at Le Meridien with your tour leader in advance for a guaranteed spot.

Day 09: Our Kerala tour concludes at our Kochi hotel. Today is free for you to leave at your convenience. Luggage storage is available, and if you require a hotel transfer, depart from Cochin International Airport (COK).

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